With the conditions not conducive for putting the ball in the air, two of the area’s – if not state’s – top small school teams slammed at each other at the line of scrimmage.
After a halftime tie, Eau Claire Regis marched for a touchdown to take the lead near the end of the third quarter, then sealed the win in the final period – surprisingly with two big pass plays, the only completions of the game.
The 29-8 win over Spring Valley in the third round of the Division 6 playoffs advances the Ramblers to a semifinal game next weekend against Abbotsford at a site to be determined.
“Two good teams played smash-mouth football,” Regis Coach Bryant Brenner said. “We knew they wanted to run the football but we were concerned about the long ball. We were able to limit the big plays.”
It was the 12th straight win for the Ramblers who have won 23 of their last 24 games.
“We’re just happy to have another week together,” Brenner said. “We just beat the best team we faced and we deserve to be in the position we’re in.”
The Ramblers broke an 8-8 halftime deadlock on a 7-yard run by Hayden Reinders, who ran like a man possessed against the Cardinals tough defense.
It was still a one touchdown game late in the fourth period when Tristan Root unloaded a halfback pass to Drew Goettl for a 35-yard gain to the one with Gus Theisen scoring on the next play with 5:16 to play.
Just to make sure, Bennett Seelen tossed a 39-yard scoring pass to Aaron Haselwander with 1:17 to go.
“I was pleased the way we came out and played,” Spring Valley Coach Ryan Kapping said. “We struggled at first but then we settled in. It was the pass plays that made the difference.”
Spring Valley was unable to counter in the air as All-Everything quarterback Aaron Borgerding suffered a finger injury on his throwing hand that was called a possible break.
“It prevented him from throwing,” Kapping said, “but he’s a tough kid and kept giving it his best shot.”
Despite an 11-yard loss on a fumble, Borgerding emerged as the game’s top rusher with 121 yards in 19 carries that included runs of 27 for a touchdown and 20 yards.
“He’s a truly quality player,” Brenner said. “We’ll be glad to see him graduate.”
Regis countered with Reinders, who aggressively plowed through the Cardinals defense for 89 yards in 16 carries, and Root, who carried 18 times for a hard-earned 81 yards.
The Ramblers ran up 216 of their 290 yards on the ground and limited Spring Valley to 179 – all on the ground with Nate Fesenmaier supporting Borgerding with crashes into the line good for 57 yards.
“I thought our speed had an effect,” Brenner said. “We were able to match their speed on the outside perimeter although they had some success up the middle.”
Regis took the opening kickoff and marched 74 yards to pay dirt in 12 plays, Root carrying it over from the seven for an 8-0 lead after Reinders ran over for the 2-pointer.
Early in the second period, Regis was forced into what would have been the only punt of the game from its own 10. But the snap was low and in trying to pick it up, Root was called for having a knee down in the end zone that resulted in a safety.
The Cardinals took the kickoff and eight plays later, Borgerding broke loose on a keeper for a 27-yard scoring romp. With a chance to take the lead, Regis blocked the low extra point attempt and it was 8-8 at halftime.
The two teams exchanged fumbles to open the second half with Alex Leis pouncing on both Spring Valley drops. When he got the second, it set in motion Regis’ tie-breaking drive that covered 54 yards in 13 plays, capped by Reinders 7-yard run.
The Ramblers stopped Spring Valley just short of a first down and then set out to put it away with the two pass plays.
Brenner thought that was a key juncture of the game, the defense stuffing Spring Valley on its first two downs.
Spring Valley wound up its great season with a 10-2 record, its only other loss by three points to Dunn-St. Croix Conference rival Mondovi.
“I’m so proud of the kids,” Kapping said. “We thought they would be good and wanted to see them take our play to another level. We’ve got a good group coming back next year.”
The win was the third straight in the playoffs for Regis over the Cardinals. The Ramblers won by 41-14 last year and 25-6 in 2017.
Regis 29, Spring Valley 8
Spring Valley 0 8 0 0 – 8
Regis 8 0 7 14 — 29
R – Tristan Root 7 run (Hayden Reinders run), 5:43
SV – safety, 10:36
SV – Aaron Borgerding 27 run (kick blocked), 5:25
R – Reinders 7 run (Root kick), 0:16
R – Gus Theisen 1 run (Root kick), 5:16
R – Aaron Haselwander 39 pass from Bennett Seelen (Root kick), 1:17
First downs 11 17
Net yards179 290
by rushing (att-yds)40-179 49-216
by passing 0 74
Passes (comp-att-int)0-4-1 2-3-0
Punts-average 0-0 0-0
Fumbles-lost 2-2 1-1
Penalties-yards 0-0 4-30
RUSHING (att-yds): SV: Borgerding 19-121, Nate Fessenamaier 20-57, Brenden Williams 1-1. ECR: Root 18-81, Reinders 16-89, A. Haselwander 11-35, Gus Theisen 3-3, Gabe Chenal 1-1.
PASSING (comp-att-int-yds): SV: Connor Ducklow 0-2-0, Borgerding 0-1-1, Williams 0-1-0. ECR: Seelen 1-2-0, 39 yds, Root 1-1-0, 35 yds.
RECEIVING: ECR: A. Haselwander 1-39, Drew Goettl 1-35.
INTERCEPTIONS (tot-yds): ECR: A. Haselwander 1-0.
SACKS (tot-yds): None.